Monthly Archives: June 2013

God versus Humans

We, humans, function better when we set up limits.  We can maintain peace and order only by creating a rigid set of rules and regulations.  These rules and regulations are called laws. And we need to enforce these laws.

For every infraction that breaks the laws, we create a consequence to punish the infraction.  We have to set limits… otherwise there will be  chaos in a lawless world.  We need to enforce the laws by creating a set of punitive techniques to maintain as much order as possible. We need to be fair.  We must practice nonmaleficence  and benevolence.

We need to reward people according to their deeds.  The more people contribute to society, the more rewards they should have.   This is how we come up with the concept of morality.  Whatever helps to promote more peace, harmony, and thus benevolence, it is agreed to be labeled as “moral” and “the right thing to do.”  On the other hand, whatever contradicts what already has been agreed as that which helps the  continuation of society’s growth, is labeled as “immoral” and “unlawful.”  This is why we develop constitutions, laws, monarchies, governments, and regulations.   To remind us of the “wrong” things we need to refrain from doing and to avoid punishment, and enhance society’s growth.

The more people disrupt peace and harmony, and thus affect the benefit of society, the more punishment they should receive. Someone has to pay for the “wrong” that is made.  This is also why there exists jails, prisons, sanctions, etc.   The laws reflect the wrong that we can perform.  The rules limit what we can do because it remind us of our flaws.  They tell us how corrupt and “evil” we can be if we are not careful.

This is also how we create the notion of human rights.  We create the idea that individuals have rights that need to be protected. The right to free speech, the right to practice religion, the right to vote, the right to equal employment, the right to not be discriminated, etc. This is how we maintain equality.  And we arduously protect these rights because it is the “right thing to do.”  This is how we humans operate.

But I wonder…. is this the highest possible way we can live our lives? Is there a better way than to punish defiance and reward compliance?

I believe there is something higher than our human ways of functioning.  There is a much different set of operation that surpasses our limited human understanding.  This something is what many choose to call  “Higher Power,” “Supreme Being”, or “God.”

God does not operate in the human way.  I believe He functions in a much higher level.  His ways are not our ways.  God does not operate based on laws and rules; He operates based on grace.  He is not about punishment  but about forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. God does not protect the rights of individuals, but the benefit of the whole. God is  not fair or fights for equality.  He reflects unconditional love and giving.  God does not manifest in  prosperity and power, but in poverty and humility. God is not found in ambitions and abundance, but in emptiness and scarcity.

This is why we don’t understand God.  This is why we often call God “unfair”, “mysterious”, “uncaring”, “distant”, and  “evil.”  Because of our limited human understanding of the need to set rules and regulations, we also tend to limit God within this concept and thus justify our human regulations by claiming that God also operates based on our laws and policies.  God simply does not meet human standards.

But God does not operate like we do.  He is much more higher.  So different, that we cannot comprehend how can He ever forgive murderers, rapers, thieves, child molesters, and all kinds of criminals.  So much higher than our standards, that we need to create religions, rituals, and the concept of “hell” to maintain control of each other through fear and try to explain how “evil” people receive what they deserve.

God is so much more advanced than all of human beings combined, that the simple teachings of “turn the other cheek”, “love your enemies”, “walk the extra mile”, and “pray for those who persecute you” are totally foreign to  us humans and almost impossible to digest.  Who can really forgive a murderer?  What human being can willingly submit to an unfair authority? Who can reach the point of putting their own needs aside to help those who are less fortunate? Who can surrender their personal agendas to benefit others in need?

We simply cannot operate like God does.  It is not natural.  It is not human.  It is rather irrational.   Unfair.  Supernatural.

Can we ever reflect the character of God?  In other words, can we forgive the unforgivable?  Can we love our enemies? Can we set aside our individual rights and work towards the benefit of others even if it is unfair? Can we serve others who do not deserve to be served? Can we have the grace that God has? Can we even compare ourselves to God with all of our flaws and limited intentions?

My answer would be a simple no.  We cannot possibly operate like God does.  We do not even deserve to be compared to  God. We are too limited and flawed to even begin to act like God does.  We would need something outside of ourselves to even start practicing the kind of grace that God uses.  We cannot possibly forgive and have mercy in the magnitude that God does …

Not with our own strengths…..

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Pain

I wrote this short story about ten years ago and decided to share it in this blog.  It is based on true stories of my personal life.   Hope you enjoy it.

Pain

I am awakened from a dream and I still don’t know if I’m still sleeping or having another dream. I look around and find myself in the most beautiful place I have experienced in the world: the shore of a tropical beach. On one side are the palms, bushes, green mountains at a distance, and even a fishing wooden boat parked on the sand.  On the other side is the  endless sea, with green and blue surface. It appears as if it’s later in the morning , right before noon. The sand beneath my feet is almost white and the waves caress the sand a few steps from my feet. I feel the presence of someone sitting on the edge of the boat parked in the sand. It is a young man with casual clothes and sandals, looking at me with a friendly smile, as if he knew me. I approached him with confidence and he invites me to sit next to him.

               “Who are you?” I ask curiously, remaining standing in front of him.

               “A messenger,” he responded while maintaining a smile. His hair is brown and has light skin.

               “What message do you have and from whom?”

               “A message for your life from the Almighty!”

               “I’m  listening…”

               “You carry a lot of pain in your heart that the Lord would want to take away. It’s a pain about many  situations in your life … “

               “I do not feel any pain. What pain are you talking about? “

               “A deep pain that you can not grasp. But that is causing conflict and sadness in your life. “

               I do not want to believe this man, but I am curious to hear what this strange messenger is about to tell me. The sea breeze caresses my face. The heat from the sun warms my hair and shoulders, while I decide to ask about this pain.

               “Let us start with the most painful experience you’ve ever had. Do you remember what it was? ” the stranger asks me as if talking to a student.

               Nothing really comes to mind. My eyes are on the sandy ground as I try to think what the messenger is talking about . When I lift up my eyes, I see the messenger sitting on the edge of the boat, but the scenery behind him is different. I see now a smaller palm behind the man. Behind the palm is a fence. Instead of hearing the ocean waves behind me, I now hear cars running. Then I look behind me and I find myself on the edge of a busy road, which is like 10 feet from where I stand. The sea became a neighborhood across the road where you see only the roofs of the houses because they are at the bottom of a hill. A concrete fence separates the house from the road.

               “Where are we?”, I ask the messenger.

               “You’ll know in a moment…,” he answers with a straight face.

               I look again to the cars passing on the road and see a gray stationwagon slowly approaching and parks near me. When I look at who drives the car, I recognize that it is my mother.  She looks younger, but with a frown on her face. As she parks the car, I notice that her gaze is no longer on the road but a boy sitting by her side. The child is also sad. I  see tears on his tender face. I carefully approach the station wagon parked on the grass at the edge of the busy road.  I immediately recognize where I am. They do not seem to notice me, as if I were watching a movie. But it is a movie where I am in it.  It is very real.  I continue to slowly approach the car and watch the sad child’s face.  I acknowledge that the child is me.

               “Remember this day….?” asked the messenger behind me.

               I admit that I do, but I do not answer. I keep noticing the child and my mother. I feel my eyes watering. I know exactly what happens in this scenario. My mom had picked me up from school. She had turned the wrong way at a traffic light where there is a pizza place on one side, and some condominiums on the other.  I had to ask where we were going, since the direction was contrary to our home.  That day, we went to live at my aunt’s house because my parents were separating. I feel tears shedding down my face as well.

               “This is the worst pain you have. Correct?”  asks the man behind me.

               I can not speak. The emotions are overwhelming. Still, I do not want to admit the pain. I want to speak to my mother instead. I want to tell her to turn the stationwagen back to our home. I want her to give my dad another chance. But what did I know? I was just a child. What did I know about what was really going on? How did I know what was best for a family? Family? What is a family? Is this what it is supposed to happen in a family? I hated the moment that my parents separated! Damn the day they divorced! But whose fault is it? I don’t know. I do not think it’s a question of blame. It’s just facts of life that hurt, but serve for growth and maturing.

Pain? I remember the man is still behind me. But I want to ignore him and fixate on my mom while she is still parked in front of me. Then she turns her gaze to the road and drives off.  Then I look back where the messenger is.

               “Ok, I remember this day. I remember this pain, but that happened a  long time ago! “

               “Then why  are there still tears on your face? ‘”, questioned the messenger.

               I don’t want to answer. I immediately dry my face and I am now in dark  environment. I’m in the livingroom of a house. It’s night time and I see a total of five people watching television. I look out the front door and recognize the neighborhood and, accross the street, I see the front part of the house where I grew up. I’m in the neighbor’s house.   Now I recognize the neighbor and her daughter in front of me. Beside me is my brother in a wheelchair, a child, and my dad sitting beside the child. I realize that I’m the child again. The room is dark but the light of the television shows the people’s faces,  particularly the bitter face of my father. I see the brightness of his tears as he screams and curses while the child listens in silence. My father is  yelling and blaming my mother for leaving us at the neighbor’s house and going to church. This was always a typical argument at home. I feel fear and dread by being in this place.

               “Tomorrow, my world will end!” shouted my father while everyone else remained silent in the dark. His crying haunts everyone in the room, including myself, even if I am not really there. I remember as a child, I felt fear, sadness, and shame at the same time. What a horrible way for two children to spend time with their ​​father before a divorce! Yes, this was the night before my parents legally divorced, a disastrous proceeding in the family.

               “This was also painful to you, was it not?,” the messenger announced. I did not see him since I’m in this new environment. I do not not want to pay attention to him. He is reminding me of the pain I denied a minute ago.

               I want to be out of this nightmare, but I do not want to show my sorrow. I prefer to stay calm so that the messenger does not  see that  these experiences still hurt me. Why is it that this stranger is allowing these vivid memories  to resurface now? What is the purpose of reminding me of this pain? Although I admit it  in my heart, I do not want to reveal it. I decide to leave the house and walk towards the home across the street.  I want to get away from that situation and the voice of the messenger who created this nightmare. I’m starting to feel anger towards this strange person who seems to have pity on me.

               I  jump the short fence of my house and walk towards the middle of the yard besides the house.   Suddenly it becomes daylight. It’s like instant daylight, but the sun is still on the horizon. I can breathe the fresh morning air. It’s a much better environment where there are no highways or people screaming in the night. I stand in the middle of the yard next to my house and watch the young palm tree that  a janitor from a private school gave me. The palm looks healthy but still has a few more years to be a full size palm tree.

               “This palm was a gift of great importance in your childhood, was it not?” The voice of the messenger comes back to haunt me.

               I ignore him completely. I wonder what he will prove me now about my past life. Doesn’t he know that he is causing more pain by doing this?

               “This palm was eventually torn out by the winds of a hurricane…” added the messenger.

               “God took it away! ‘, I decided to speak to clarify the situation. Now I feel more angry because the messenger perhaps wanted me to admit this other pain like I did in the previous two.

               “And what else did God take away from you…?”

               I hear footsteps coming from the front of the house. I turn and  see the same boy walking in the yard where I stand. He does not feel my presence again. I acknowledge that the child is me,  but seems to be younger than the boy at the other scenes. He has a plastic bag in his hand with  tiny seeds inside.  He walks past me as if I am an invisible ghost and goes to a wooden structure shaped like a triangle. The structure I remember  was a dog house that was being used now to house another animal. The little  house was lying on its side , with the only entrance facing up. A piece of zinc is covering the entrance. My throat feels like a knot, as I realize what is about to happen.

               “My God…!”, I begin to say aloud while the child stands up and drops the bag of seed in the ground for a moment to remove the piece of zinc.

               “Do not open it! Do not open it! “, I shouted trying to have the boy pay attention to me before I discover what was inside. “My God, do not open, you’re going to be frighten …!

               “Aaaahhhh!” The child and I scream at the same time. Now everything seems to be moving in slow motion.

               “What was inside the dog house?,” asks the messenger, knowing full well the answer. 

               I ignore the question of the messenger as the child screams in horror. I feel fear. I am afraid to go and see what frightened the child, or me. But I don’t need to see inside the wooden house. I see it clearly in my memory. A feathery little body, the  size of my hand, lying on its side. It has a line of ants going in and out of its eye socket. It’s a frightening image. My hands are over my head. I’m reliving another nightmare. I hear another scream, this time it’s an adult, coming from the front of the house. The boy and I look. It is my father. Running and screaming hysterically, as he usually did in dramatic moments.

               “What happened?, My father yells at the child.

               “Don’t say it, I do not want to hear it!” I yelled to the child, knowing that my cry is in vain.

               “The baby chick is dead !”

                Now I’m on the sand at the beach where I was before. I am kneeling with my hands on the sandy soil. I see tear drops falling on the sand.

               “Why did the baby chick die..?,” asks the messenger who appears to be again sitting on the edge of the boat parked in front of me.

               I keep crying and moaning on the hot sand.

               “It was because of your carelessness, wasn’t it? He died from lack of nutrition. It was abandoned and left to die. You thought of checking it the night before, but decided to wait until next morning. “

               “I was just an ignorant child …”, I try to justify between sobs.

               “But it was your responsibility. And you repeated the same mistake with your best friend of your adolescence. Your new pet was also carelessly abandoned and ended up dead… “

               “Enough!” I yell.

                “You want to blame your family, but you know very well it was your responsibility….”

                “I said that’s enough!! You got what you wanted! “

               “Shall I present the next stage of your life where other pain also originated …?”

               “No!” I cried immediately. My face is wet with tears. “I can’t see anymore!”  I have my hands covering my face.

               “This pain is what I meant when I spoke to you first,” said the messenger.

               Now I feel hatred  in my heart as I  yell,   “Why are you torturing me so much? What kind of abuser are you? “

               “You asked me what I was referring to by pain and I showed you. It doesn’t mean I enjoy it…. “

               I turn around and look into the beautiful clear sea while I’m trying to dry my tears without achieving much. The pain I feel is as deep as the sea I see at this time. The sea is beautiful above, but who knows how many things are  hidden beneath the surface ? This was exactly what I learned from my life with this man. My life may look good and healthy. But there are concerns caused by the past that are hidden, but affect in many ways.

               “My message is simple…. the Almighty wants to heal this wound in  your heart and take away the pain. You just need to ask with sincerity …”

               My anger made me more rebellious towards this man. I don’t recognize that my anger is not really caused by this strange man, but by my hidden pain.  A pain that was just revealed.

                “I do not need God to remove any pain. I need my pain!! My pain creates the person I am today.” I try to intellectualize my emotional state.

               “And that person is the one that keeps you away from the Almighty and His Salvation. You need to be born again; you need to  transform into a new person. You need to be a man without pain.  You are called to become a joyful man. ‘

. I turn around and face the strange man, “If God loves me, why did he let these things happen? Huh? Answer the  question! Why did he allow them  if he loves me so much…?” I ask the man with contempt.

                “For that same reason…, because he loves you.”  the stranger answers, “He allowed them so that He can be manifested in your life. He wants to make you a new man!”

                 “Manifest in my life? Where was God when my parents fought so much and ended up divorcing? Where was God when my brother almost died while still in the womb of my mother? Where was God all the times my mother struggled to help my brother improve  and all the prayers and religious events where it was believed that there would be a miracle for him? Answer me! Where was God when my older brother had diabetes and my mother was depressed? Can you answer my questions…?”

                 “In the same place  when your brothers laughed and played with joy, especially the one who does not walk, who was chosen as an instrument of spiritual growth for others. God was in the same place during your pain as when you happily  graduated from high school. In the same place as when you happily visited your girlfriend, celebrated your wedding, and bought your first home. God has been in the same place  when  your daughter was born  .God has been in the same place during times of pain and joy. He has  always been at your side.”

                  “That’s hard to believe …”, I reply.

                   “That’s because you don’t  want to believe it…., but it is true,” replied the messenger.

It seems that nothing I say serves as justification for my rebellion. Nothing I try to explain or excuse is enough to accuse God of being unfair or even cruel. This man tells me that God has been present in good times and bad times. That means that He allowed both types of experiences to  take place.  One was for us to enjoy life, and the other to learn from life, even if they were undesirable. One was to relieve pain, and the other was to cause pain, and give me the opportunity to be a new man. Both experiences are to give thanks to God for.

                     “I don’t want  to feel this pain anymore…..” I admit at last, with weary eyes.

The messenger smiles.

Why would I want to stay bitter with the painful experiences of  my life? Why do I   think I have to justify my pride and my self sufficiency, if  these are actually  caused by my pain? It is as if I wanted  to justify keeping the pain, manifesting itself in my arrogance. Why do I find it preferable to keep this pain, even it it serves as a barrier that prevents  others from entering in my life, including God? Yet I live denying the pain even if it is  deep in my heart.  What stops me from releasing this pain and be free from any emotional attachment?  The pride,… and the pain.

                     “Take away this pain…., please …”

The man’s smile begins to disappear. Instead of having a smiling face, I see now a face in pain and suffering. Big drops of tears fall from his eyes, followed by drops of blood coming down from his forehead. Then I notice that the boat  parked behind him starts moving and modifying on its own. Its shape changed from a boat to a vertical wooden pole . From the top of the wooden pole, two horizontal poles submerge on both sides. The man’s face is in torment as he extends both hands towards me, showing me his open hands . I look at them and I notice that they are filled with blood, as if something sharp had penetrated  them. Then the man reaches out to both sides and is elevated to the post that is erected behind him. I was amazed and terrorized as I see this man who remains tied up in this wooden post. I was going to ask what was happening. But I think I understand clearly what I see. Because I decided to give my pain away, this man then took my pain and hurt to the point of bleeding.

                    “You took the pain from me…,” I say out loud while the man seems to start to lose consciousness in this horrible situation. Suddenly, the pain of this man seems to be so large that he takes a deep breath and then breathes no more. I recognize who he is now. There are no more tears on my face. The memory of my past is in my mind, but the pain is no longer in my heart. He took it off and stayed with it. I kneel again and raise my arms thanking the Almighty for this man that took away my pain and took it to him to death. I then fix my eyes on some letters written in the wood above where his head is. The letters  are clear and they say :”Jesus.”